The travel-mages retuned the hhejŝṧhyant, which did not need it in the slightest. The next day, it was Sjojarn’s turn to finish the ritual. He made certain changes, which he hoped would make it less likely to come upon Dull Glow worlds in the region they were exploring. Again, most of the dragons and small people gathered around. The cyclone was erected, the minikin sent through.
“This time, I see a dot of darkness, as black as the previous world’s dot was bright,” said Itharieth. “By Grailbee’s frailty, it is just the size of a six-kirkop coin, held at a certain distance from the eyes! Or if you prefer, it subtends a fractional number of degrees! I refuse to measure it more exactly, for the doctor is sure to mock me. It grows, it grows, as the minikin advances.” A considerable amount of such commentary ensued. “Now the end of the cyclone is a dozen feet off. The cyclone glows slightly, barely illuminating a flat surface beyond the cyclone for a few feet. Its texture is rough, or roughly smooth, like that of an orange perhaps. I see nothing in the sky, nothing on the ground as far as there is light, which is not far.”
Sjojarn shook his head sadly. “This will not be a good world either. But let us finish.”
Itharieth continued, “Now the minikin steps out of the cyclone onto the new world. Ah, poor miserable minikin! It dances in pain, leaving tiny footprints as upon snow or fine sand! it thrashes and convulses, it — it has perished!”
Sjojarn said, “This is the sort of world called “Coldest Ice. Matter can exist, as you see. But there are no energy-producing processes, nothing like the katastheresis that powers Hove’s suns, or the fusion that powers Mhel’s. Lacking any source of light or heat, the world is dark and cold. The surface that the minikin froze upon is surely nothing more than frozen hydrogen: a world-sized lump of hydrogen ice, probably circling a sun-sized lump. There is nothing more.”
Gimuse moaned. “No life?”
“No life, for there are no processes that provide energy, and life requires energy. Or so it is in the standard Coldest Ice,” said Sjojarn.
“Shall I not go and see?” said Gimuse.
“You may, certainly, if you are such a tourist as all that,” said Sjojarn. “Be back by tomorrow, for we will be making another excursion.”
By midnight (by convention, the hour that the brightest of Hove’s three suns is midway behind the central column of that toroidal world), the ghost returned. “That was not very interesting. I should rather fall into a mountain canyon and take two hours to bleed to death while my husband and friends tried hard but unsuccessfully to rescue me, than spend two hours in that world again. And I speak as an expert, for I have done both. Oh, Osoth? Would you mind terribly if I sent my husband a postcard?”
“You are welcome to. I believe that the extremely useful and alarmingly many-talented Mr. Norb is coordinating the postal service. Probably he can find someone to hold a pen for you.” Osoth peered at the hovens. “Who among you will serve as amanuensis for a spectral biologist?” His obscure choice of vocabulary got him a poor response — the poor dragon has always been more comfortable and informal with the dead than the living — but eventually a suitably secretary was acquired.